The Musician’s Friend team is deeply saddened to learn of the April 25th death of Remo D. Belli, founder of Remo, Inc., a name long associated with the best in drumheads and percussion instruments. His death was reportedly the result of pneumonia. Our two companies have enjoyed a long relationship marked by mutual respect.

Belli founded his company in 1957 following years of playing drums in clubs and a Navy band. Moving to Los Angeles in the 1950s, he found none of the existing drum shops in the area to his liking. With a $2,300 loan from his parents he founded Drum City—soon to become a hub for drummers in the thriving West Coast music scene. Remembering the early days, Belli recalled, “Our shop was like a master class for me. I kept my mouth shut and my ears open.”

Belli was a born experimenter, and dissatisfied with the calfskin drumheads that were the norm, he began experimenting with polyethylene films. A trip to Slingerland drum factory in Chicago piqued his interest in Mylar as an alternative to natural hides that lacked consistency and were subject to atmospheric changes.

Working with a chemist, Belli began experimenting with various materials including metalized films and resins while tweaking thicknesses and the number of plies to achieve the sounds he sought. By the 1960s, Remo was offering a broad range of drumheads that gave percussionists unprecedented performance advantages. Remo’s synthetic heads had largely won over purists who has previously insisted that only calfskin sounded and played right.

Today, the company offers a vast range of drumheads and percussion instruments aimed at distinct music genres. Remo’s extensive line of colorful hand-percussion instruments turn up in hundreds of school music programs, and Remo drumheads can be found on everything from symphonic drums to heavy metal kits and beyond.